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It depends on the religious group. In some cases, different people in the same ethnic group have different beliefs, and religious groups cross ethnic lines.

However, in many cultures, people are born into a particular group, and identified with that group by others even if do not actively practice its religion. In these cases, the religious identity is, in effect, a type of ethnicity, and though two groups may be labeled by their religious affiliations, they usually have many other differences that distinguish them, such as language, clothing, food, and other cultural practices. You'll sometimes see the term "ethnoreligious" (or "ethno-religious") used to refer to these groups.

Thus, when we hear about the Sunnis and Shi'a in Iraq, what we're really hearing about is two different ethnic groups that happen to distinguish themselves first and foremost by adherence to the two different branches of Islam, but that have other cultural differences as well. Moreover, no one ever includes the Iraqi Kurds in "the Sunnis," even though almost all of the Kurds practice Sunni Islam.

Likewise, even when two "ethnic" groups do not have religious labels, religion may still be one of the things that divides them: this is true, for example, of the Sinhalese (Buddhist) and Sri Lankan Tamils (Hindu) in Sri Lanka.

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โˆ™ 2013-09-19 13:56:28
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Q: What is the difference between ethnic and religious groups?
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